Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Last Call For The Good Package, Con't

Corporate lobbyists in DC are doing everything they can to burn down the $3.5 billion Good Package, because of the corporate tax hikes and regulatory improvements. They don't want a piece of the pie, they want to bury the whole deal.


“We’re doing it in every way you can imagine,” said Aric Newhouse, the senior vice president for policy at the National Association of Manufacturers, when asked about the group’s lobbying. He added that the tax increases Democrats have pursued would mean “manufacturing families will suffer, jobs will be lost.”

Disney, Pfizer and Exxon declined to comment. Jessica Boulanger, a spokeswoman for the Business Roundtable, said in a statement it is engaged in “a significant, multifaceted campaign” to stop tax hikes and would “continue to ramp up our efforts in the coming weeks.”

Brian Newell, a spokesman for PhRMA, stressed that the group supports general pricing reforms — just not the ideas Democrats are pursuing. “The industry is willing to come to the table and do its fair share to help deliver real relief to patients at the pharmacy, not empty promises that will do more harm than good,” he said in a statement.

The raft of lobbying arrives as lawmakers begin to translate Biden’s broader economic vision into legislation. Democratic leaders have said their reconciliation measure can expand Medicare coverage, offer universal prekindergarten, provide new help to low-income families, and invest substantial sums toward fighting climate change.

Hoping to give Biden a win, Democrats have aimed to send the package to his desk as soon as September. Their race to enact legislation has set off a mad dash on Capitol Hill, a process that is sure to test the president’s political influence — and the durability of Democrats’ narrow, potent and fractious majorities in both chambers of Congress.

In a sign of the obstacles Democrats face, the Chamber of Commerce last week took a firm stand against the package, promising to do “everything we can” to prevent Congress from adopting it in full. The group’s president and chief executive, Suzanne Clark, issued the statement hours after the House adopted the $3.5 trillion budget that enabled Democrats to begin crafting tax and spending provisions — an approach, she said, that would “halt America’s fragile economic recovery.”

The Chamber’s opposition marked a major shift in tone from earlier this summer, when the business lobby locked arms with Democrats to help advance another centerpiece of Biden’s economic agenda. The group threw its full weight behind a bipartisan Senate package to improve the nation’s roads, bridges, pipes, ports and Internet connections, arguing that the roughly $1 trillion in fixes were long overdue.

Once the Senate adopted the package, however, the Chamber turned up the pressure on the House. Last week, for example, it unleashed widely viewed ads on Facebook praising the nine moderate Democrats who had threatened to block the party’s budget unless they could first secure a House vote on infrastructure spending. Democrats ultimately resolved their internal stalemate, paving the way for both packages to proceed this month, but not before the Chamber sought to highlight the party’s internal divisions in ads that together received millions of views.

The Chamber declined to comment about its plans, including the behind-the-scenes work to assemble a coalition. Neil Bradley, the group’s executive vice president, blasted Democrats for pursuing a bill “that proposes to fundamentally rewrite the rules of the road across virtually every major industrial sector.
The big issue of course is that one of the main revenue components of the Good Package is reversing the Trump corporate tax cuts. These corporate types will burn the package to the ground and the Dems along with it in order to stop it.
We'll see who wins.

McCarthy In The Messy Morass Middle

House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy isn't going to be able to put off the question of impeaching President Joe Biden over absolutely nothing until January 2023, as the bloody ghouls in his own party are demanding impeachment hearings of Biden officials over Afghanistan now.

As hard as Kevin McCarthy has hammered the White House over the chaotic and deadly U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, he’s under rising pressure from his right to go further.

The House minority leader has repeatedly pushed back on rank-and-file Republicans who want to make a high-stakes call for impeaching Biden over his handling of Afghanistan — a vow that would come due should the GOP take back the chamber next November. But multiple House Republican sources said that even before Tuesday’s fraught end to the U.S. military mission, their offices were being bombarded with calls from base voters for a future Biden impeachment or another more forceful response against the administration.

“It’s a grassroots pressure — we're feeling it,” said freshman Rep. Barry Moore (R-Ala.), a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. “I think even some of the Democrats are feeling it.”

While Republicans would have no path to impeaching Biden while still in the House minority, and any GOP-instigated impeachment trial would go nowhere unless the Senate also changed hands in the midterms, the constituent pressure could persuade more reluctant members of McCarthy’s conference to back an escalation in the party’s messaging against Biden. McCarthy, who endorsed former President Donald Trump’s call to pull troops from Afghanistan, already has promised “a day of reckoning” that includes investigations and hearings on Biden’s handling of the U.S. pullout if Republicans win the majority.

Should the House flip next year, however, McCarthy will then need near-unified support from conservatives in order to secure the speaker’s gavel. And notably, while the California Republican tries to keep his focus on getting Americans out of Afghanistan safely, most of the pro-impeachment energy is coming from his right flank.

Members of the House Freedom Caucus discussed whether to endorse calling for Biden to be impeached during a meeting last week, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the confab. While some were not ready to commit to impeaching Biden, almost all members agreed that “doing nothing is not an option at this point,” according to a Freedom Caucus member at the meeting who talked about it candidly on condition of anonymity.

Freedom Caucus members were “preparing for calling for resignations and or impeachment” last week, this GOP lawmaker said, but were also realistic about the Democratic line of succession. Some Republicans say privately that they have raised the ascension of Vice President Kamala Harris to constituents as a reason why they are not behind impeachment.

The group is planning a Tuesday press conference to urge Speaker Nancy Pelosi to call Congress back into session early so lawmakers can vote on a GOP resolution backing impeachment of Secretary of State Antony Blinken, as well as GOP resolutions calling for the resignations of Biden, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Gen. Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

McCarthy already made his own call for Pelosi to bring the House back into session ahead of Tuesday’s U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, telling GOP members in a Sunday letter that Republicans would try to force floor action by filing a discharge petition on a bill that he says would “empower our military with the support they need to get Americans home.” The House GOP also plans to use the upcoming debate over the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to spotlight problems with the U.S. pullout.

U.S. officials said Monday night following the military's withdrawal, scores of Americans remained in Afghanistan who had wanted to leave amid an unstable situation as the Taliban took full control of the country.

Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said Monday that the party already has 50 NDAA amendments on Afghanistan, aimed at U.S. equipment that may have been left behind and the closure of Bagram airbase ahead of the withdrawal, among other issues.
Going after Biden is one thing, but going after Blinken, Austin, and Milley is going to be a tall order without it looking like the GOP is going after the troops and the generals, especially since getting out of Afghanistan is very popular.

Once again, McCarthy's in a trap. He either has to overplay his hand, or be removed from power.

Couldn't happen to a nicer jackass.

Disinformation Nation, Con't

Trust in major news organizations has plummeted among Americans in the last two years, and nearly all of that drop is thanks to Republicans, who are too stupid to believe anything unless it's shat out of Trump's ass.

In just five years, the percentage of Republicans with at least some trust in national news organizations has been cut in half – dropping from 70% in 2016 to 35% this year. This decline is fueling the continued widening of the partisan gap in trust of the media.

Nearly eight-in-ten Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (78%) say they have “a lot” or “some” trust in the information that comes from national news organizations – 43 percentage points higher than Republicans and Republican leaners (35%) – according to a new Pew Research Center survey conducted June 14-27, 2021. This partisan gap is the largest of any time that this question has been asked since 2016. And it grows even wider – to 53 points – between liberal Democrats (83%) and conservative Republicans (30%).

The 35% of Republicans who have at least some trust in national news organizations in 2021 is half that of in 2016 (70%) – and has dropped 14 points since late 2019 (49%). By comparison, Democrats have remained far more consistent in the past five years, ranging somewhere between 78% and 86%.

Overall, about six-in-ten U.S. adults (58%) say they have at least some trust in the information that comes from national news organizations. While still a majority, this is the smallest share over the past five years this question was asked. When it was last asked in late 2019, 65% expressed at least some trust. And far fewer (12%) express that they have “a lot” of trust in the information that comes from national news organizations.

Americans tend to have greater trust in local news organizations – though there is somewhat of a decline here as well. A large majority of Americans (75%) still say they have at least some trust in the information that comes from local news organizations, modestly lower than the shares who said the same in 2016 (82%) and in late 2019 (79%). And again, far fewer express the highest level of trust (18%).

A similar partisan divide emerges when it comes to local news, though to a lesser extent. As of June 2021, Democrats are 18 percentage points more likely than Republicans to have at least some trust in the information that comes from local news organizations (84% vs. 66%, respectively) – a gap that is again larger than at any time in recent years. Five years ago, 85% of Democrats had at least some trust in local news organizations, while 79% of Republicans did.

Social media continues to engender a much lower level of trust. About a quarter of Americans (27%) say they have at least some trust in the information that comes from social networking sites, with just 4% expressing that they have a lot of trust in it. This is about on par with late 2019 when 26% said they had at least some trust, but somewhat lower than the 34% who said the same in 2016. (In 2016, this question was asked of internet-using U.S. adults.)

Social media is trusted by a minority of both parties, though a partisan gap still exists. About a third of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (34%) and 19% of Republicans and Republican leaners say they have at least some trust in the information that comes from social media – a 15-point gap. This gap is larger than gaps from any other time in recent years and has nearly doubled since late 2019.
At least there remains a healthy skepticism of everything social media, and that's good, but I think Republicans are lying about this because they're supposed to "hate" Twitter and Facebook for banning Trump. They have no problem getting their disinformation from the Right-Wing Noise Machine on a daily basis.

Trump did more to destroy American institutions than America's enemies could ever dream of, and right now we're ripe for an autocratic takeover by the right.

Here's hoping that enough of us with common sense can resist before the bullets start flying.


Monday, August 30, 2021

Last Call For The China Game

China apparently feels the need to crack down on kids playing video games, restricting those under 18 to just 3 hours a week, on weekend evenings, as parents are apparently furious that mobile games especially are not being controlled.

Regulators in China are taking their disapproval of youth gaming to the next level with sweeping new restrictions that limit minors to a handful of state-approved online gaming hours a week.

According to Bloomberg, authorities have ordered gaming platforms such as industry giant Tencent and Netease to restrict gaming for minor users to between 8:00 p.m. on Fridays, weekends, and holidays, a dramatic decrease from prior restrictions that limited accounts belonging to minors (those under 18) to 1.5 hours a day. News of the restrictions comes via Chinese state-owned media organ Xinhua, which cited the government’s National Press and Publication Administration.

The new rules will require all gaming platforms to be linked to a state-operated “anti-addiction” system and require that all users be verified with a real-life identity. Regulators also said they will step up compliance checks to ensure companies enforce the new rules.

As Ars Technica reported, it’s widely understood that the restrictions will apply to all games and all devices. However, the measures appear to predominantly target online ones and it’s not clear how regulators could restrict offline gaming even if they intend to. Reuters wrote that many users on Chinese social networking site Weibo were skeptical that young gamers couldn’t easily evade the new rules by such means as the use of parental accounts not subject to the same restrictions.

Previously, Chinese state media announced that restrictions on video game playing by minors would be enforced via requirements that platforms implement face recognition systems. Theoretically, such a system could be required for all game platforms in the future, providing a way to enforce age requirements in offline games.

Tencent quickly moved to roll out a “Midnight Patrol” system Daniel Ahmad, an analyst at occasional Tencent partner Niko Partners, told the Verge. The system worked by identifying gamers who remained active after midnight and prompted those who remained online for long amounts of time or spent lots of money to submit a picture of their face to verify they were actually 18 or older.

The NPPA statement in Xinhua characterized the new restrictions as “protecting the physical and mental health of minors... and relates to the cultivation of the younger generation in the era of national rejuvenation.”

“This ruling is the strictest one to date and will essentially wipe out most spending from minors, which we note was already extremely low,” Ahmad told Bloomberg. Netease stock slid by over 9% in pre-market trading in New York, Bloomberg wrote, while UOB Kay Hian (Hong Kong) Ltd executive director Steven Leung told the news agency that three hours is “too tight” and will “have a negative impact on Tencent too.”

“I thought regulatory measures would take a break gradually, but it’s not stopping at all,” Leung added. “It will hurt the nascent tech rebound for sure.”
Seems that China doesn't want to get that dirty, awful, US kid entertainment all over its authoritarian utopia. Bread and circuses, just the ones the CCP approves of, and not even China can stop people from playing games.
The more you tighten your grip, the more these star systems slip through your fingers, as a very wise woman once said.

The Vax Of Life, Con't

The big COVID story here in Cincy right now is that a judge in suburban Butler County (a.k.a Boehner Country) ordered West Chester Hospital to treat a COVID patient with Ivermectin, a horse dewormer with no known real benefits to treating COVID patients, but the judge ordered it anyway because...freedom or something.

A Butler County judge ruled in favor of a woman last week who sought to force a hospital to administer Ivermectin — an animal dewormer that federal regulators have warned against using in COVID-19 patients — to her husband after several weeks in the ICU with the disease.

Butler County Common Pleas Judge Gregory Howard ordered West Chester Hospital, part of the University of Cincinnati network, to treat Jeffrey Smith, 51, with Ivermectin. The order, filed Aug. 23, compels the hospital to provide Smith with 30mg of Ivermectin daily for three weeks.

The drug was originally developed to deworm livestock animals before doctors began using it against parasitic diseases among humans. Several researchers won a Nobel Prize in 2015 for establishing its efficacy in humans. It’s used to treat head lice, onchocerciasis (river blindness) and others.

Both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have warned Americans against the use of Ivermectin to treat COVID-19, a viral disease. It’s unproven as a treatment, they say, and large doses of it can be dangerous and cause serious harm. A review of available literature conducted earlier this month by the journal Nature found there’s no certainty in the available data on potential benefits of Ivermectin.

The drug has grown in popularity among conservatives, fueled by endorsements from allies of former President Donald Trump like U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc. or Fox News personalities Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity. The CDC warned reports of poisoning related to use of Ivermectin have increased threefold this year, spiking in July.

Julie Smith filed the lawsuit on behalf of her husband of 24 years. He tested positive for COVID-19 July 9, was hospitalized and admitted to the ICU July 15, and was sedated and intubated and placed on a ventilator Aug. 1. He later developed a secondary infection he’s still wrestling with as of Aug. 23, court records say.

The lawsuit doesn’t mention whether Jeffrey Smith is vaccinated against COVID-19. However, overwhelming majorities of people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated — data from the Ohio Department of Health shows of roughly 21,000 Ohioans hospitalized with COVID-19 since Jan. 1, only about 500 were vaccinated.

Julie Smith found Ivermectin on her own and connected with Dr. Fred Wagshul, an Ohio physician who her lawsuit identifies as “one of the foremost experts on using Ivermectin in treating COVID-19.” He prescribed the drug, and the hospital refused to administer it.

A hospital spokeswoman said she can’t comment on litigation and federal patient privacy laws prevent her from commenting on any specifics of patient care.

Smith is represented by New York attorney Ralph Lorigo, the chairman of New York’s Erie County Conservative Party, who has successfully filed one similar case against a Chicago area hospital and two more in Buffalo. He did not respond to an email or phone call.

The Ohio lawsuit makes reference to the Front Line Covid-19 Critical Care Alliance, a nonprofit of which Wagshul is listed as a founding physician. The organization touts Ivermectin as both a preventative and treatment for COVID-19. Its “How To Get Ivermectin” section includes prices and locations of pharmacies that will supply it, from Afghanistan to Fort Lauderdale to Pennsylvania to Sao Paulo, Brazil
Rather than take the vaccine, now approved by the FDA, these pathetic losers are turning to a livestock dewormer to treat a virus because hey it's "like" a parasite and it should work, right, only people are ending up in the ER with poisoning issues, ER's filled with COVID patients by the way.

On top of that there's now an international network of ambulance chasers getting judges to force doctors to treat COVID patients with quackery.

This should be of national concern, but apparently there's literally so much garbage out there going on that we don't have time to address this nationally, and frankly doing so would set off multiple armed bloody insurrections across the United States because millions are willing to literally die in order to avoid the vaccine.

You can't reason with anyone willing to give their own life for a cause as ludicrous as this. It's well past the time we cut these assholes free and let brutal Darwinian consequences scour the playing field.

But here across the river in Kentucky, Sen. Rand Paul is gleefully blaming Democrats for COVID victims, saying that "Trump hatred" is preventing the FDA from taking Ivermectin "seriously" as a treatment.

Hatred of former President Donald Trump has kept researchers from looking into the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin and other drugs to treat COVID-19, Republican Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul told constituents on Friday.

The Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control have warned people using ivermectin, a drug used to treat parasitic worm infections in humans and livestock, is dangerous. The FDA went as far as tweeting out a reminder on August 21, "You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y'all. Stop it."

But Paul encouraged more research.

"The hatred for Trump deranged these people so much, that they're unwilling to objectively study it," Paul said to the 60 people squeezed into the Cold Spring City Council chambers in this Northern Kentucky suburb just south of Cincinnati. "So someone like me that's in the middle on it, I can't tell you because they will not study ivermectin. They will not study hydroxychloroquine without the taint of their hatred for Donald Trump."

It's also why they don't research hydroxychloroquine, he said, an anti-malarial drug touted by Trump as a treatment.

The World Health Organization in April found based on six clinical trials that hydroxychloroquine "had little or no effect on preventing illness, hospitalization or death from COVID-19."

A woman in the audience had asked Rand Paul, an ophthalmologist, why ivermectin wasn't more available. The woman said she had some ivermectin stashed away "just in case."

Paul told her he didn't know if it works because there isn't enough research. When asked by The Enquirer after the meetings about the FDA and CDC warnings on ivermectin, Paul reiterated what he said in the town hall

"I don't know if it works, but I keep an open mind," Paul said
There isn't enough research on whether or not wearing a necklace of geodes prevents COVID-19 infections either, and it's because it's ludicrous to waste time doing it. Even if there was a million pages of research, Rand Paul and his ilk would dismiss it anyway and just boot the goalposts into space.

The entire point here is for more people to die from COVID under Biden's term than under Trump's, so that the GOP "wins" the "competence argument", so Republicans are going to just continue to disinform the public until enough die from it.

So they can "win", thanks to a corrupt judicial that orders what doctors have to prescribe now, based on disinformation. That's frightening.
That's what matters to them. Winning, and you're the one who loses.

The Rent Is Too Damn High, Con't

As Hurricane Ida moves north this morning into Mississippi, it's important to note that the Supreme Court's decision to kill the CDC eviction moratorium means people are being evicted into the twin storms of a Gulf hurricane and COVID delta, and some of them will simply not survive the next few weeks.

T. Young’s reprieve from homelessness was three days.

The mother of four rushed home Friday when she heard the news. When she arrived, officers were still traveling door to door at Catherine Street Apartments in Starkville, flanking a representative from her new rental company. They were informing the residents that the mass-eviction process that started only weeks before was resolving, and resolving quickly.

What happened next is disputed. Were residents given three hours, or three days? Young is adamant that she heard three hours. “They said, ‘you have three hours to get out,’” she told the Mississippi Free Press in an Aug. 28 interview. “I was on the phone with my boyfriend, and I heard her say it. She was close enough for me to hear her. (Then) she said to get all our stuff packed up and leave.”

Others at the apartment complex heard the same message. Before long, activists arrived, representatives from Starkville Strong, from the Oktibbeha County NAACP. Twenty minutes after Young made it home, Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill arrived. The eviction moratorium had not even been dead a full day. It may not have helped, though; the Starkville evictions have nothing to do with rent money.

Spruill conferred with Judge Marty Haug, who confirmed that he had not yet signed a removal order. But the order is coming, as sure as the hurricane brewing in the south. Monday morning, his signature will adorn it. On Tuesday, Young, her boyfriend and their four children—11, 9, 7, and a month old—will lose their home. Accompanying them will be many of the dozens and dozens of families living across 61 units at Catherine Street Apartments.

No back rent can save them. The apartments’ new owners plan to rehabilitate the buildings. For this, they want all of the residents gone. Without an active lease, nothing in Mississippi State Code prevents the evictions.

“At this point, we don’t know where we’re going next,” Young said. Her family had experienced homelessness already, finding a place at Catherine Street Apartments in December 2020 with the assistance of Starkville Strong, a local civic support group. That same organization is working to help Young and her partner now. Exhaustion fills her voice, and sorrow quiets it.

A hotel stay, they hope, will get them through the first weeks of September. Then, God willing, another affordable housing unit, one that might provide shelter for more than a year before unceremoniously throwing them out.

Imagine that this is the best case scenario for you, surviving long enough to get evicted again in a few years. Most likely, some of these folks will simply disappear into the hell of near-permanent homelessness. And some will die from COVID or other diseases. That's if they survive Ida flooding the state. 

This hell awaits tens of millions of us if we don't put in real safety guardrails. Sadly, we don't have the political will to do even that. Climate change, COVID, and a runaway Supreme Court? All preventable.

But we didn't prevent it.

So now we will pay for decades to come.

Some of us will pay with our lives, sooner rather than later.

This is America now.


Sunday, August 29, 2021

Last Call For Crossfire Hurricane

Hurricane Ida has made landfall in Louisiana, just short of Category 5 with winds of 150 MPH, and all of NOLA is without power.

All of Orleans Parish — which is the city of New Orleans — is without power, according to NOLA Ready, New Orleans' emergency preparedness campaign.

If anyone in the parish has power, it's coming from a generator, NOLA Ready says.

Across Louisiana, more than 700,000 customers are without power as Hurricane Ida continues to pound the coastal state.

Power outages are expected to continue increasing as the storm moves inland.
Ida is a slow moving storm and is expected to spend days over Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kentucky, bringing drenching rains, flooding, and more power outages before heading into the mid-Atlantic and New England by the end of the week.

Be careful out there, folks.

The Big Lie, Actual Truth Edition

So turns out we've actually found election fraud committed by corrupt state election officials, and of course they're Republicans failing to count votes in order to help GOP candidates.
Seated onstage at the most-hyped election conspiracy event of the year, the clerk of Mesa County, Colorado, Tina Peters, described herself as a crusader for election security.

“I’ve looked at it objectively,” Peters said of supposed issues in election data during her speech at MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell’s “Cyber Symposium” this month. “There’s some discrepancies there that I cannot deny, and I tell people, ‘I cannot unsee some of these things.’ If I’m going to be honest with the people of Mesa County and Colorado and all of you, I cannot unsee some of these things.”

But at home in Mesa County, some current and former officials have a different recollection of Peters’ tenure overseeing elections.

During Peters’ first year as clerk, in 2019, her office was blamed for leaving more than 570 uncounted ballots in a box, long past an election. Less than a year later, one of her office’s drop boxes leaked ballots, sending some floating in the summer breeze. Now Peters has gone underground, reportedly hiding in a safe house provided by Lindell, after she allegedly participated in a breach of Mesa County voting machine data this year. That data soon wound up on conspiracy websites, making Peters a folk hero among the MAGA set and the subject of an FBI investigation.

Peters (who did not return requests for comment) took office in 2019, after her predecessor, Sheila Reiner, reached her term limit. What followed was an unusually bombastic tenure in a typically low-drama role.

While overseeing the November 2019 general election, Peters’ office forgot to count 574 ballots, instead leaving them unattended in a drop box outside her office for months. That slip-up coincided with a rush of departures from Peters’ office. In December 2019, nearly 20 of Peters’ 32-person staff had departed, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported at the time. More staff quit days after the missing ballots were discovered, in late February 2020, bringing the departure count over two dozen.

The Colorado Secretary of State’s Office told Peters to get her act together.

“The Secretary of State’s Office appointed someone to be in the [clerk’s] office to help with the election,” Amanda Polson, who served as elections director under Reiner, told The Daily Beast.

Patti Inscho, a Democrat and an experienced former Mesa County Clerk employee, was hired to help Peters with elections. But just two months into Inscho’s role, Peters fired her, accusing her of not doing assigned work—an allegation Inscho firmly denied. The rift turned ugly, with a Peters staffer filing a criminal complaint against Inscho for allegedly not working during a pandemic, the Colorado Sun previously reported. Police dismissed the report.

“Tina didn’t want to fight facts,” Inscho told The Daily Beast. “She wanted to damage people. She did and said a lot of things about me that are untrue. It hurt my reputation, and it’s hard to fight back against.”

Polson, who had been hopeful about Inscho’s hiring, saw her termination as a bad omen.

“Essentially, that person [Inscho] got shut out,” Polson said. “Nothing had improved in the office. She was still, we thought, not handling the ballot issue correctly. There are some lines you can’t cross in an election administration. That is one of them: not counting ballots that should be counted.”

In May 2020, Polson formally began an effort to recall Peters. The campaign took issue with Peters’ handling of the lost ballots, as well as her staff turnover, a series of controversial business expenses (including more than $3,000 in food), and her decision not to oversee a pair of town-level elections. (The towns were forced to oversee their own elections, costing them two to three times the typical cost of a county-run vote.)

Soon the recall campaign had another data point: a ballot drop-off box, installed by Peters’ office for the 2020 primary election, appeared defective, sending completed ballots blowing across a parking lot. Peters claimed the leak was staged and blamed a local couple who’d reported the issue. The couple denied the allegation in an interview with the Daily Sentinel, where a reporter also noted ongoing issues with ballots becoming lodged in the drop box.

Polson was joined in her signature-gathering campaign by Inscho and even, on occasion, Peters’ predecessor Sheila Reiner. “I agreed with the group that things weren’t being done properly,” Reiner told The Daily Beast. “I didn’t believe that Tina was doing a good job.”

She said she collected some signatures for the recall, but was not one of its organizers. Still, her involvement cost her. Reiner said she was antagonized by Peters loyalists who objected to the recall.

“I'm a Republican,” she said. “There are some other Republicans that felt like that I wasn't being loyal to the brand, let’s put it that way.”
Remember, this is someone who is a GOP hero because she actually committed election fraud, with the justification that it was "correcting" election fraud by the Democrats that didn't actually exist

I expect a lot more of this in 2022 and especially 2024, especially since it's clear that Democrats aren't going to kill the filibuster to pass federal voting rights legislation, and no Republican will ever vote for it.

They've been screaming about election fraud for over a year now -- before even the 2020 election - so they have cover to steal the next several ones.

Sunday Long Read: Prime Time Slime

Maybe I should stop referring to Republicans and corporate criminals (often the same overlapping categories in the big venn diagram) as "slimeballs" because it turns out slimes are actually fascinating, and they even love oatmeal as Orion Magazine's Lacy M. Johnson tells us in this week's Sunday Long Read. No, seriously, they love oatmeal.

IT IS SPRING IN HOUSTON, which means that each day the temperature rises and so does the humidity. The bricks of my house sweat. In my yard the damp air condenses on the leaves of the crepe myrtle tree; a shower falls from the branches with the slightest breeze. The dampness has darkened the flower bed, and from the black mulch has emerged what looks like a pile of snotty scrambled eggs in a shade of shocking, bilious yellow. As if someone sneezed on their way to the front door, but what came out was mustard and marshmallow.

I recognize this curious specimen as the aethalial state of Fuligo septica, more commonly known as “dog vomit slime mold.” Despite its name, it’s not actually a mold—not any type of fungus at all—but rather a myxomycete (pronounced MIX-oh-my-seat), a small, understudied class of creatures that occasionally appear in yards and gardens as strange, Technicolor blobs. Like fungi, myxomycetes begin their lives as spores, but when a myxomycete spore germinates and cracks open, a microscopic amoeba slithers out. The amoeba bends and extends one edge of its cell to pull itself along, occasionally consuming bacteria and yeast and algae, occasionally dividing to clone and multiply itself. If saturated with water, the amoeba can grow a kind of tail that whips around to propel itself; on dry land the tail retracts and disappears. When the amoeba encounters another amoeba with whom it is genetically compatible, the two fuse, joining chromosomes and nuclei, and the newly fused nucleus begins dividing and redividing as the creature oozes along the forest floor, or on the underside of decaying logs, or between damp leaves, hunting its microscopic prey, drawing each morsel inside its gooey plasmodium, growing ever larger, until at the end of its life, it transforms into an aethalia, a “fruiting body” that might be spongelike in some species, or like a hardened calcium deposit in others, or, as with Stemonitis axifera, grows into hundreds of delicate rust-colored stalks. As it transitions into this irreversible state, the normally unicellular myxomycete divides itself into countless spores, which it releases to be carried elsewhere by the wind, and if conditions are favorable, some of them will germinate and the cycle will begin again.

From a taxonomical perspective, the Fuligo septica currently “fruiting” in my front yard belongs to the Physaraceae family, among the order of Physarales, in class Myxogastria, a taxonomic group that contains fewer than a thousand individual species. These creatures exist on every continent and almost everywhere people have looked for them: from Antarctica, where Calomyxa metallica forms iridescent beads, to the Sonoran Desert, where Didymium eremophilum clings to the skeletons of decaying saguaro cacti; from high in the Spanish Pyrenees, where Collaria chionophila fruit in the receding edge of melting snowbanks, to the forests of Singapore, where the aethalia of Arcyria denudata gather on the bark of decaying wood, like tufts of fresh cotton candy.

Although many species are intensely colored—orange, coral pink, or red—others are white or clear. Some take on the color of what they eat: ingesting algae will cause a few slime molds to turn a nauseous green. Physarum polycephalum, which recently made its debut at the Paris Zoo, is a bright, egg yolk yellow, has 720 sexual configurations and a vaguely fruity smell, and appears to be motivated by, among other things, a passionate love of oatmeal.

Throughout their lives, myxomycetes only ever exist as a single cell, inside which the cytoplasm always flows—out to its extremities, back to the center. When it encounters something it likes, such as oatmeal, the cytoplasm pulsates more quickly. If it finds something it dislikes, like salt, quinine, bright light, cold, or caffeine, it pulsates more slowly and moves its cytoplasm away (though it can choose to overcome these preferences if it means survival). In one remarkable study published in Science, Japanese researchers created a model of the Tokyo metropolitan area using oat flakes to represent population centers, and found that Physarum polycephalum configured itself into a near replica of the famously intuitive Tokyo rail system. In another experiment, scientists blasted a specimen with cold air at regular intervals, and found that it learned to expect the blast, and would retract in anticipation. It can solve mazes in pursuit of a single oat flake, and later, can recall the path it took to reach it. More remarkable still, a slime mold can grow indefinitely in its plasmodial stage. As long as it has an adequate food supply and is comfortable in its environment, it doesn’t age and it doesn’t die.

Here in this little patch of mulch in my yard is a creature that begins life as a microscopic amoeba and ends it as a vibrant splotch that produces spores, and for all the time in between, it is a single cell that can grow as large as a bath mat, has no brain, no sense of sight or smell, but can solve mazes, learn patterns, keep time, and pass down the wisdom of generations.

It turns out that slimes are pretty cool. I really should stop using it as an insult. After all, they're more useful than Republicans.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

The Vax Of Life, Con't

Yes, COVID-19 delta is killing kids, kids who are unvaccinated and in schools with other kids, with governors who are preventing schools from enforcing mask regulations because making a child wear a mask is "child abuse", as opposed to filling their lungs with their own liquefied lung tissue and watching them drown as they spend their final moments on Earth in the ICU of children's hospitals.

Tens of millions of American adults who were supposed to protect them are too selfish to do the right thing, mask up, and get the vaccine, and America's kids are paying the ultimate price for that hubris.
As children’s hospitals in many parts of the United States admit more Covid-19 patients, a result of the highly contagious Delta variant, federal and state health officials are grappling with a sharp new concern: children not yet eligible for vaccination in places with substantial viral spread, now at higher risk of being infected than at any other time in the pandemic. Nowhere is that worry greater than in Louisiana, which has among the highest new daily case rates in the country and only 40 percent of people are fully vaccinated, putting children at particular risk as they return to school.

Most children with Covid-19 have only mild symptoms, and there is not enough evidence to conclude that Delta makes some of them sicker than other variants do, scientists say. Doctors and nurses at Children’s Hospital agreed with that assessment.

Theresa Sokol, Louisiana’s top epidemiologist, said that people younger than 18 had among the highest test positivity rates in the state and were responsible for a significant share of transmission, with many cases most likely undetected.

“So many days are filled with this puzzle of: We don’t have enough beds for this patient who wants to come, so how are we going to shuffle our children around to accommodate one more?” said Devon H. Relle, a pediatric nurse practitioner at Children’s Hospital New Orleans, where she worked the front desk of the 17-bed I.C.U. The hospital was also seeing an early, worrisome wave of respiratory syncytial virus, known as R.S.V., which can cause some of the same symptoms and was contributing to the overflow conditions.

The crush of Covid-19 at Children’s Hospital grew so intense this month that the state called in a federal “surge team” of emergency responders from the Department of Health and Human Services’s National Disaster Medical System. The group of about 14 included a physician, a nurse practitioner, nurses, paramedics, a respiratory therapist and a pharmacist.

The team was the first assigned to a children’s hospital during the pandemic.

“Covid-19 right now down here is so endemic that you don’t have to have a specific exposure, because it’s just out there,” said Anne Barylick, a nurse practitioner on the surge team who handled patient intake in the emergency department and Covid-19 units. “Statistically, you’re going to run into it.”

Dr. Mark W. Kline, the hospital’s physician in chief, said that its overcrowded units threatened care for children across the region. It is one of the few advanced children’s hospitals in Louisiana and bordering states, he said, and there are few other options for specialized pediatric care.

Ms. Barylick, who works at a community health center in Rhode Island, was also deployed to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. But this deployment was fundamentally different, she said. Instead of helping with a field hospital or pop-up clinic under a tent after a natural disaster, she and her colleagues were woven into the hospital’s normal operations. They rotated with members of the regular nursing staff to triage young patients and greeted them in the emergency room to assess whether they might have Covid-19.

The need here was clear.

“I have never seen our faculty look so tired or sad,” said Dr. Adele K. Evans, who leads the hospital’s tracheostomy team. About 60 members of the medical staff were in quarantine last week. She called it the most difficult moment in the hospital’s history.
Let me explain this to people in no uncertain terms so that there is no misunderstanding.
The reason why you get vaccinated, and why you wear masks, is not only to protect yourself, but to protect those who cannot be vaccinated

To protect kids.

Why is this so difficult?

Why is empathy so hard for these assholes? Why is the concept of a greater good so foreign to selfish, narcissistic jackasses?

I guess I answered my own question. The next question is, how long are we going to tolerate this. And sadly, given the number of kids America lets die in a year in the name of "freedom", the answer is "forever".

Friday, August 27, 2021

Last Call For Af-Gone-Istan, Con't

Republicans are howling for President Joe Biden's head over yesterday's suicide bombing in Kabul that killed 13 US Marines, certain that they can destroy him in revenge for "what Democrats did to Trump". But even House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy is admitting that they are vastly overplaying their hand here when there's fallen US soldiers on every front page in America.
The GOP is divided over how hard -- and how quickly -- to go after President Joe Biden in the wake of Thursday's deadly attack on US troops at the Kabul airport. 
While a growing chorus of rank-and-file Republicans have called for Biden's resignation or impeachment over the administration's disastrous exit from Afghanistan, key leaders and others in the party have struck a more measured tone for the moment. 
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy even pushed back against some of his members during a private conference call Thursday night, suggesting that the demands for Biden's immediate ouster are counterproductive and saying the focus right now needs to be on getting Americans out of Afghanistan safely. But he also promised to pressure the administration. 
"Promise you there is going to be a reckoning," McCarthy, who spoke to Biden by phone on Thursday, told members on the GOP conference call, according to sources. "We are going to hold every single person accountable." 
Republicans across the board have been eager to keep the chaotic withdrawal in the spotlight and believe it will be a permanent stain on Biden's presidency. But GOP leaders know that getting too political too quickly after Thursday's attacks risks looking craven and disrespectful of the 13 US troops who lost their lives, with flags still being flown at half-staff and the possibility that Biden will travel to Delaware's Dover Air Force Base whenever the fallen soldiers' remains are returned. 
With Republicans in the minority, but only five seats away from winning back the House next year, McCarthy has his eyes on the long game as opposed to trying to score short-term political points. But it's a tough balancing act for the California Republican, who faces an increasingly agitated right flank.

The thing is McCarthy has shown no previous ability to control his inchoate gallery of demons and devils whatsoever. There's no reason to believe he'll actually start reining them in anytime soon.

Even one of McCarthy's top deputies lit into Biden, calling him "unfit" to serve as President.

"Joe Biden has blood on his hands," Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, the no. 3 House Republican, tweeted shortly after reports surfaced of casualties from the airport explosions. "This horrific national security and humanitarian disaster is solely the result of Joe Biden's weak and incompetent leadership. He is unfit to be Commander-in-Chief."

Even before the airport attack, Republicans had been vowing to investigate Biden's messy withdrawal from Afghanistan if they seize back power next year, with some lawmakers floating the idea of a Select Committee on Afghanistan.

In the minority, there is far less that Republicans can do to pressure the White House. For now, though, they are asking for information from the administration, firing off letters and taking steps that would help with future probes. And with some Democrats openly critical of the administration and joining in on GOP calls to extend the August 31 withdrawal date, Republicans see potential areas for bipartisanship.

Rep. Devin Nunes of California, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, informed lawmakers during Thursday's call that he sent a letter to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence requesting document preservation, according to two sources on the call. And Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, also called for document preservation so that the House can conduct oversight and investigations, another source told CNN.

But Indiana Rep. Jackie Walorski said during the conference call that investigations are not enough. A number of lawmakers on the call repeated their admonitions for Biden or other administration officials to resign, according to sources. 
Earlier in the day, Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn said five top US officials -- Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley -- "should all resign or face impeachment and removal from office." 
Rep. Tom Rice of South Carolina, one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump for inciting the January 6 insurrection, also called for Biden to step down. 
"Do the American people a favor. Resign and turn the job over to someone who can handle it," Rice said in a statement.
Look, even CNN's Chris Cillizza, a true Village Idiot, knows the calls for resignation are pure nonsense, for two reasons, as he says.
1. There was a time not that long ago where NO politician would even consider calling publicly for the resignation of a president while the number of American casualties were still being counted. It would have been considered abhorrent -- playing politics on a day when we are all Americans first and members of a political party second. One of the many boundaries that Donald Trump shattered was this one; there is now no compunction about politicizing the deaths of Americans on a mission abroad. Everything is now political from the second it happens. 
2. Do the members calling for Biden's resignation actually believe that a tragedy happening -- either in this country or abroad -- is grounds for resignation? By that standard, George W. Bush should have resigned on September 12, 2001. Franklin Delano Roosevelt should have resigned after Pearl Harbor. Bill Clinton should have resigned after the Oklahoma City bombing. 
Yes, presidents must be held accountable when terrible things happen on their watch. We owe it to the people who died to investigate why it happened, whether it could have been prevented and how to keep it from happening again. But the idea that a president must resign immediately following a tragic incident like the one that happened Thursday in Afghanistan is ludicrous. 
All of this discussion is, of course, moot because President Biden isn't going to resign

It's dangerous red meat for the screaming hordes who don't recognize Biden as president anyway, and the Republicans have to feed them, or be devoured themselves.

Remember that.

We Don't Need No Education, Con't

With more and more Republican nutjobs taking over school boards, we're seeing more and more decisions like this from a school district in Waukesha, Wisconsin opting out of federal school lunch assistance programs to keep from "spoiling" kids.

You heard me right.

In June, the board voted to forgo the U.S. Agriculture Department’s Food and Nutrition Service’s extension of the Seamless Summer Option, a program to provide free meals to all students through June 30, 2022, because the pandemic was expected to burden some children’s nutrition.

“The covid-19 public health and economic crisis has highlighted the essential role that school meals play in addressing childhood hunger,” Alan Shannon, a spokesman for the Food and Nutrition Service, said in an email to The Washington Post. He highlighted the universal program’s lack of application as a victory for families and for local authorities who otherwise would be tasked with processing them.

Forgoing the Seamless Summer Option, Shannon added, could mean a loss of revenue for the Waukesha School District. The reimbursement for schools operating under the universal meal program is $4.32, he said, and the National School Lunch Program’s is $3.90 for free meals and $3.59 for reduced-price meals.

The Waukesha district, which serves 14,000 students, implemented the Seamless Summer Option last academic year, but its school board members decided to return to the free and reduced-price option, some citing a desire to return to pre-pandemic operations. A document from the board outlined a worry about the program’s effects on applications for the National School Lunch Program after the universal offering expires.

“As we get back to whatever you want to believe normal means, we have decisions to make,” Joseph Como Jr., president of the school board, said at the June meeting. “I would say this is part of normalization.”

Karin Rajnicek, a school board member, said the free program made it easy for families to “become spoiled.” Darren Clark, assistant superintendent for business services, said there could be a “slow addiction” to the service
Republicans will go out of their way to use their tax dollars to make those people that they see as undeserving of help suffer. 

That's it, that's the memo.

The Vax Of Life, Con't

Oregon is the latest US state to go into a universal mask mandate again over COVID as the delta variant rages across the country.

Facing a 990 percent increase in coronavirus hospitalizations since July 9, Oregon leaders have deployed the National Guard to hospitals, dispatched crisis teams to the hardest-hit regions of the state and ordered educators and health care workers to get vaccinated or lose their jobs.

Now, in her latest mandate that will take effect on Friday, Gov. Kate Brown has gone beyond what any other state has done in battling the summer surge, requiring that both vaccinated and unvaccinated people wear masks when gathering closely in public, even when outdoors. She said more restrictions might be needed as the coming days unfold and the state tries to keep in-person schooling on track.

“All options are on the table,” Ms. Brown said in an interview this week.

Oregon’s aggressive approach in restoring pandemic mandates is a stark divergence from states in the South, where outbreaks have been even worse but where many governors have resisted mandates for masks and vaccinations. But with the arrival of the Delta variant, Oregon has become one of a handful of states where cases and hospitalizations have escalated beyond even the records set during the worst part of the pandemic last year.

The virus is rampaging through rural communities where vaccination rates remain low. Hospitals across the state are near capacity, almost 50 percent beyond the state’s previous peak in December. Last week, a coronavirus patient in Roseburg died while waiting for an I.C.U. bed.

The Oregon Health Authority director, Patrick Allen, said the situation was so “dire” that he was urging unvaccinated people to avoid engaging in any nonessential activities.

“It’s that simple. It’s that urgent,” he said.

Yet as the country debates how far to go with new mandates, the lines between what is safe and what is not are becoming less clear. While she said she was ruling nothing out, Ms. Brown has not imposed the kind of restrictions that were in place when the virus was less virulent than it is now; she has not prohibited indoor dining or large public gatherings, and the state is resuming in-person instruction at most public schools, unless they face serious outbreaks.

That has largely left local leaders and businesses — and individuals themselves — to figure out how to navigate the hazardous new terrain.

In the state’s largest city, Portland’s mayor, Ted Wheeler, was among those to embrace new mandates on face coverings this month when Ms. Brown required them for indoor activities, including for those who are vaccinated. “Please join me in making a commitment to protect those around us by wearing a mask at all times while indoors,” Mr. Wheeler urged on Twitter.

But, a week later, on Aug. 20, Mr. Wheeler gathered with others in the eighth-floor lounge of a downtown hotel, joining a send-off party for a departing staff member. Photos obtained by The New York Times show him sitting with about a dozen people — almost all unmasked — testing the limits of the strict new mask rules.
Still issues with complacency and "Do as I say, not as I do". We need lockdowns, but no governor will do it, so tens of thousands are going to die in the next month.

We've finally reached the "acceptable deaths from COVID" stage of the disease, and I expect we'll hit a million before the end of the year total.



Thursday, August 26, 2021

Last Call For I Recall Gavin, Con't

With only weeks to go to California's recall election of Gov. Gavin Newsom, the polls remain distressingly tight.
Earlier this month, results from a SurveyUSA poll showed that 51% of likely voters in California’s upcoming recall election would vote to remove Gov. Gavin Newsom from office. It was the first poll to show a majority favoring his removal and led to a dramatic shift in polling averages.

Before these results, polling averages calculated by the politics and data website FiveThirtyEight showed a seven-point margin favoring keeping Newsom in office. But with SurveyUSA’s data, the margin narrowed to less than one point. As of Aug. 17, the latest date for which FiveThirtyEight has data, the margin inched up to 1.2 points, with 48.8% for keeping Newsom in office and 47.6% for removing him.

FiveThirtyEight’s polling averages are perhaps the most sophisticated data-based method of assessing the state of the recall race. The numbers come from a statistical model that aggregates individual poll results into two averages — one for keeping Newsom in office and another for removing him. The website has been producing these averages since mid-July but incorporates polls that go as far back as January.

FiveThirtyEight also tracks averages for whom Californians would choose as a replacement if Newsom is recalled. In their latest numbers, Larry Elder leads with an average of 19%, followed by Kevin Paffrath at 9% and John Cox at 6%. The other 43 candidates on the ballot have averages below 5%.


In other words, there's a 50/50 shot that odious grifter Larry Elder ends up governor.

Nobody in California seems to think that there's much alacrity needed, either.

It's a disaster in the making.


Af-Gone-Istan, Con't

Tragic violence in Afghanistan today as suicide bombers tried to disrupt the airlift from Kabul, leaving scores of bodies, including a dozen US troops dead.

Suicide bombers struck the crowded gates of Kabul airport with at least two explosions on Thursday, causing a bloodbath among civilians and U.S. troops, and bringing a catastrophic halt to the airlift of tens of thousands of Afghans desperate to flee.

Two U.S. officials put the U.S. death toll at 12 service members killed, making it one of the deadliest incidents for American troops of the entire 20-year war.

There was no complete toll of Afghan civilians but video images uploaded by Afghan journalists showed dozens of bodies of people killed in packed crowds outside the airport.

A watery ditch by the airport fence was filled with bloodsoaked corpses, some being fished out and laid in heaps on the canal side while wailing civilians searched for loved ones.

Several Western countries said the airlift of civilians was now effectively over, with the United States having sealed the gates of the airport leaving no way out for tens of thousands of Afghans who worked for the West through two decades of war.

A Taliban official said at least 13 people including children had been killed in the attack and 52 were wounded, though it was clear from video footage that those figures were far from complete. One surgical hospital run by an Italian charity said it alone was treating more than 60 wounded.

The explosions took place amid the crowds outside the airport who have been massing for days in hope of escaping in an airlift which the United States says will end by Tuesday, following the swift capture of the country by the Taliban.
This is horrific.

Twenty years of failure just landed on our doorstep, and I fear this isn't the final butcher's bill, for America or for Afghanistan.

The Vax Of Life, Con't

The best places in America for economic growth are no long Republican states, they're Democratic states with high rates of vaccination, particularly urban counties with mandates.

With Covid-19 cases once again rising across the country, the U.S. is struggling to curb the latest, delta-driven surge, as hospitalizations and deaths have steadily climbed. But at least so far, the economy has proved highly resilient. There are many reasons for this, ranging from generous stimulus checks to the Federal Reserve’s commitment to buying bonds and holding interest rates low.

But some interesting new data on the overlap of electoral politics and economic dynamism suggest another reason: The geography of America’s economic engine is heavily concentrated in counties that Joe Biden won in 2020. These counties are much more heavily vaccinated than the rest of the country and thus better able to withstand the economic effects of Covid’s delta variant.

The shift of U.S. economic production toward blue counties predates the arrival of the coronavirus. After the 2016 election, Mark Muro, the policy director of the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Project, found that the 472 counties Hillary Clinton won produced 64% of the country’s economic output, while the 2,584 counties Donald Trump won contributed just 36%. That was a significant jump from the 2000 election, when the blue-red county economic split was 54% to 46%. Muro dubbed this divide “high-output America” vs. “low-output America.”

Last year, after Biden defeated Trump, Muro looked again and found that the economic output divide has grown even more pronounced. The 520 counties Biden won account for fully 71% of U.S. gross domestic product, while the 2,564 that Trump carried produced just 29%. In other words, America’s economic engine is bluer than ever.

The partisan lean of these 520 economically vital counties has almost certainly helped to protect U.S. growth because Democrats are much more likely to be vaccinated than Republicans. To pinpoint the difference between high-output and low-output America, I asked Muro to compare county-level vaccination data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for blue and red counties. He found that the average share of fully vaccinated people, age 12 and above, in the Biden-voting counties that produce 71% of GDP was 61%, as of Aug. 22, while the share in Trump-voting counties was 46%—a gap that’s grown substantially since April, when vaccination rates in high-output and low-output America were almost the same.

“At this point, reduced vaccination rates align very much with 2020 Trump voting across counties, and that—it turns out—aligns very closely with weaker economic performance,” Muro says. “The irony is that low vaccination rates are likely to slow economic recovery.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, the delta wave has hit red America hardest. Nine of the top 10 states with the highest cumulative seven-day case rate per 100,000 residents as of Aug. 22 voted for Trump: Mississippi (840), Louisiana (756), Florida (700), Alabama (525), Tennessee (511), Arkansas (511), Kentucky (511), South Carolina (490), and Alaska (455). Nationally, there were 308 cases per 100,000 people.

The divergence in Covid cases and the effect on economic activity in red and blue counties may be attributable to more than just low vaccination rates. The nature of work in Biden counties vs. Trump counties probably also plays a role. High-tech workers in economic powerhouses such as Los Angeles and Santa Clara counties in California are far better able to shield themselves from infection than, say, meat and poultry processing workers in plants in Iowa or South Dakota.

Still, says Muro, “these gaps likely mean that blue America may be gaining another economic advantage over red America this summer, as blue areas better fend off the delta variant while red ones struggle with it.”
Gosh, vaccinated urban counties where Biden won represent 70% of America's GDP, and they're the places not just surviving, but thriving in the pandemic era?  Vaccinated and ready to go back to work, school, and play actually means something significant?

Who could have known?

Oh wait, everyone except for the GOP and their death cult, that's who.


Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Last Call For Greening For Green

Corporations stuck with lots of commercial real estate and empty offices in the era of the pandemic are finding new ways to get workers back to the office, green perks like treehouses, bird blinds, and beekeeping.
The investment company Nuveen has spent $120 million renovating its office tower at 730 Third Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, overhauling the lobby, devoting the second floor to amenities and refurbishing a 22nd-floor terrace.

And the finishing touch? Two beehives on a seventh-floor terrace.

Following the latest trend in office perks, Nuveen hired a beekeeper to teach tenants about their tiny new neighbors and harvest honey for them to take home.

“In conversations with tenants, I get more questions about that than anything else,” said Brian Wallick, Nuveen’s director of New York office and life science investments.

Office workers who were sent home during pandemic lockdowns often sought refuge in nature, tending to houseplants, setting up bird feeders and sitting outdoors with their laptops. Now, as companies try to coax skittish employees back to the office and building owners compete for tenants when vacancy rates are soaring, many have hit on the idea of making the office world feel more like the natural world.

The effort seeks to give office workers access to fresh air, sunlight and plants, in tune with the concept of biophilia, which says humans have an innate connection with nature. Designs that include nature are shown to promote health and wellness.

Some of the more unusual nature-themed offering include “treehouse” lounges and vegetable plots that let desk workers dig in the dirt. Beekeeping programs — complete with honey tastings and name-your-queen contests — are, ahem, all the buzz. One upcoming project in Texas will include a bird blind, allowing workers to peek out at other winged creatures.

There’s a lot more focus on amenities and how to make an office better than working from your dining room table,” said Richard A. Cook, a founding partner at CookFox Architects.

Some companies say nature-centered amenities have won them over. And some workers find the outdoorsy vibe reassuring.

But it is unclear whether nature will be enough to attract tenants after the success of remote work over the past year and a half. Some companies have already shrunk their office space, and many employees, having ably performed their duties from home, are questioning the need to go into an office at all. The surge in coronavirus cases from the spread of the Delta variant has caused some companies, like Amazon, Apple and Facebook, to postpone their return to the office to next year.

Two weeks ago, office buildings in 10 major metropolitan areas were 32 percent occupied, down slightly from the week before, according to Kastle Systems, a security company.

Incorporating nature in office buildings is not entirely new. Before the pandemic, developers, owners and architects were already adding terraces and rooftop lounges and bringing plants and natural light inside — part of a drive to make offices healthier. Scientific studies show that biophilic spaces are associated with increased cognition and productivity, lower stress levels, fewer sick days and less staff turnover.

But now a connection to nature has gone from being “a nice-to-have to being a risk if you don’t do it,” said Joanna Frank, the president and chief executive of the Center for Active Design, which operates Fitwel, a healthy-building certification program.

Adding natural features to offices can be expensive, but the costs can often be offset with higher rents. Commercial buildings with healthy-building certifications (such as Fitwel and the Well standard, administered by the International Well Building Institute) can fetch rents up to 7.7 percent higher than noncertified buildings, according to a recent study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
It's not a terrible idea, but it's not going to solve the issue either.

Work from home is here to stay, and corporations had better get used to it, and fast. 

Nobody wants to spend two hours in the car per day just to get to a PC they can remote into from home when they spent the last year-plus proving they 100% could do the job from their couch. 

Especially if your job primarily involves PC and phone work and not physical lifting, making, fixing or delivering, you're going to see more and more workers be okay with less pay or fewer office benefits for the benefit of working from home and coming in on a limited schedule...or not at all.

If you want to mess with the office beehive, that's great. But I'm thinking that the majority of us will be working from home well into the future.

The Rent Is Too Damn High, Con't

One thing that America has completely and utterly failed at is the program designed to get rental assistance to millions of Americans facing eviction, and the NY Times has discovered that after seven months, the program has only doled out about 10% of the funds it has gotten because the process is so ridiculously difficult that nobody can handle it.
The $46.5 billion rental aid program created to pay rent accrued during the pandemic continues to disburse money at a slow pace, as the White House braces for a Supreme Court order that could strike down a new national moratorium on evictions.

The Emergency Rental Assistance Program, funded in the two federal pandemic relief packages passed over the last year, sputtered along in July, with just $1.7 billion being distributed by state and local governments, according to the Treasury Department, which oversees the program.

The money meted out was a modest increase from the prior month, bringing the total aid disbursed thus far to about $5.1 billion, figures released early Wednesday showed, or roughly 11 percent of the cash allocated by Congress to avoid an eviction crisis that many housing experts now see as increasingly likely.

“About a million payments have now gone out to families — it is starting to help a meaningful number of families,” said Gene Sperling, who oversees the operation of federal pandemic relief programs for President Biden.

“It’s just not close to enough in an emergency like this to protect all the families who need and deserve to be protected. So there is still way more to do and to do fast,” he added.

The report came as Mr. Biden’s domestic policy staff mapped out policy contingencies if the Supreme Court strikes down the moratorium, which is the administration’s principal safeguard for hundreds of thousands of low income and working class tenants hit hardest by the pandemic. White House lawyers expect a court decision this week.

The moratorium was initially implemented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last September under President Donald J. Trump. Mr. Biden extended it several times this year, but allowed it to briefly expire earlier this month. He reinstated it, in a slightly modified form, on Aug. 3 under pressure from congressional Democrats.

That final 60-day extension, enacted over the objection of White House lawyers, was intended to buy more time to distribute the emergency rental assistance.

The program is administered by the federal government, but it is up to states to build out a system to deliver aid to struggling renters and landlords, and that has been the main source of its problems.
Here's the problem: states don't want to do this. They want to evict people. The corporate lobbyists for the massive property rental and Wall Street real estate investors want people evicted so they can snap up the rentals and make billions. 

There's been minimum progress, but it's not going to save millions of people from getting evicted in the next few months once the Supreme Court kills the eviction moratorium. Here in KY and Ohio, where the moratorium is already dead thanks to the 6th Circuit court, thousands have already been evicted and thousands more will be soon, right into the heart of the COVID delta spike.

This is a disaster, all the way around, on states, on Trump, on Congress, and on Biden.
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